Wheres my jetpack

Mon, 13 February 2012

I just posted the following on a forum, intending only to complain about the lack of creativity in the world.  It rambled a bit.  It would be a good blog post.  Here it is.  The conversation was originally about the recently-released news about Space 1999 being remade.

The concept of "reimagining" Space 1999 actually highlights the main reason why our scientific advancement in some areas has halted - No-one seems able to have an original idea. Even if someone does have an original idea, they usually have to sell that idea to people who can make it happen and they usually have no imagination to carry on that work.

People do spend so much time doing irrelevant and useless things (Facebook, twitter, TV, computer games, posting opinions on forums etc) that there's no time left to actually do anything useful.

Given the rate of scientific progress in major areas (industry, space travel etc) in the first 60 years of the 20th century it was not implausible to expect the world of 2001 or Bladerunner by the times depicted - even the 2015 of Back To The Future II was plausible. The problem was that by the 90s that acceleration of technology had halted and attention had turned to the world of computers for the most part. In the 60s and 70s, when the majority of sci-fi staples were being reached towards, there were far less TV channels and no home computers or computer games. Now, there are millions of people across the world glued to screens playing or watching someone else's work rather than doing something themselves.

I'm guilty of it myself. I have many dreams. I wanted to be a published author by the time I was 30. I'm 38 now, and have written 20,000 words of the first novel. Not great. I have 4Gb of notes, drawings, models and annotations for various projects that have never seen the light of day. Why? Television, mostly.

I honestly think that there are no new ideas left in the world. Almost everyone is spending so much time recycling old crap and living their lives in "retro" mode that there's no space left for innovation. Most of society is scared of change and want to continue the present trends or harken back to "a simpler time".

Everyone's nostalgic about the 80s these days. Everyone remembers the fashions, the music, the TV programmes. No-one remembers the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. No-one remembers watching a film called Threads that was a depiction of the very real threat of nuclear war. No-one thinks about the Cold War in the real terms of how close we came to being bombed out of existence because of two men carrying briefcases with nuclear launch codes.

Conversely, though, the Cold War gave us space travel. Why? Nothing more than a US-Soviet pissing contest. The only reason the US went into space was to beat the Russians. The only reason the US went to the moon was to get their own back on the Soviet Union for beating them into orbit. The never went back because they never had to. They had proved their point.

Why will we never go back to the moon now? Money. Capitalist societies are currently in economic meltdown. Greece has just instituted a new round of taxes to stave off defaulting on their national debt. The US last year renegotiated their own national debt to stay in the black. The UK is in a similar boat, with another recession looming. Russia has been in economic decline since before the fall of the Soviet Union (primarily because they spend money on space travel to beat the US rather than feeding their population). 

We all have dreams, but the ones who have the guts to actually do these things are getting rarer by the year. Will commercial space flight happen? I don't know - it's probably the only way it will happen.

We'll never have flying cars though. Far too many safety issues. People generally have trouble coping with two dimensions when driving. Jetpacks go the same way. 350 people died on the road between my home and my workplace last year alone. That's one road in one country in one year. I don't know how many thousands die each year globally through traffic accidents but it's probably a huge number. Can you imagine these people trying to land safely when they can't even turn a corner safely?

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